Sale back to shutting down teams as Sox keep rolling
Image via Zimbio (Aug. 11, 2018 – Source: Scott Taetsch/Getty Images North America)
In his rehab start against the triple A Orioles, Chris Sale put any doubts about his injury to bed. Before being put on the 10 day DL with left shoulder inflammation, Sale had been lights out. In his last eight starts, he was the owner of a 0.69 (nice) ERA with 4 earned runs in 52 innings pitched. Thankfully, his stint on the DL was short lived, and apparently it it didn’t have too much of an effect on the lefty in his first start back with the Red Sox.
While it was against a team like the Orioles, Sale was nothing short of dominant. It was a short start, but Sale racked up double digit K’s for the eleventh time this season. He set the tone early, consistently hitting 98 and 99 on the gun to get things going. Of the 16 batters he faced on the day, only one was able to get a hit, his only baserunner on the day. He finished with 12 strikeouts in just 5 innings of work. There was certainly a sense of relief in seeing Sale back on the bump.
The Red Sox got on the board early for Sale. Steve Pearce, hitting third as the DH, launched a solo shot in the first. It was his 6th homer in a Boston uniform in just 19 games played. Pearce has been a great addition to the offense. His ability to be plugged virtually anywhere in the lineup has been his greatest value to the team. No matter where he is, Steve Pearce just seems to produce.
A day removed from two homers and three runs batted in, J.D. Martinez continued to be the best hitter in baseball (I’m sorry Mookie I love you). He added to the lead with an RBI double in the fourth. Adam Jones misplayed the ball, allowing Brock Holt to come home to make it 2-0. J.D. currently sits at 37 homers and 105 RBI. It is also August 12. He currently has more dingers than Red Sox losses (35) and Orioles wins (35). The race between him and Mookie for AL MVP is one of the many gifts that this amazing team has brought us this season.
As good as Sale was on the day, his early exit meant another long day for the struggling bullpen. Friday’s marathon of a game saw 7 Sox pitchers enter the game. Then, with a doubleheader on Saturday, another 11 saw action. In the series with Baltimore, the bullpen had surrendered 8 earned runs, which is indicative of the group’s recent struggles. At first, it looked like the struggles would continue. Tyler Thornburg came into the game in the sixth and proceeded to walk two batters. Ryan Brasier entered, thankfully, to bail Thornburg out of a bases loaded jam with a strikeout.
Brian Johnson had a relatively uneventful 7th, but the 8th for Matt Barnes wasn’t as smooth. He quickly loaded the bases and, with one out, Trey Mancini made it 2-1 with a sac fly. He eventually got out of the jam, surrendering just the one run. The Sox were able to grab a couple insurance runs in the top of the ninth. Jackie Bradley Jr., who had a fantastic weekend in Baltimore, drove in Eduardo Nunez with a single. Then, Mookie Betts knocked JBJ in with a double to make it 4-2.
Normally, a two run lead handed to Craig Kimbrel would be a non story. However, Kimbrel’s recent appearances have been a cause for concern. In 5 of his last 6 games, he has surrendered at least 1 earned run. Prior to that stretch, Kimbrel had only given up a run 6 times all year. Thankfully, Sunday’s appearance was a return to form. While he did give up a hit and a walk, he struck out three O’s to earn his 35th save on the year and close out the sweep.
The Red Sox now stand at 9.5 games over the Yankees, who picked up a win against the Rangers on Sunday. After a break on Monday, the Sox travel to Philadelphia where they’ll play two against the Phiilies.